Tom Brady is one of those figures that draws emotional responses ranging from adoration to outright disdain, often depending on whose team has had their playoff hopes crushed by him during his long tenure in the NFL.
But, say what you want, there is plenty for all of us to learn about how to be an effective leader by observing what Tom Brady does.
What he accomplished on Sunday is indeed one of the most profound successes in professional sports as he transformed a young, talented team in Tampa Bay that had been underperforming for years into world champions in one season, learning a new team and a new system all without the benefit of mini camps and preseason games. If you look beyond the hype, here is what you would see.
Tom Brady's Leadership Skills
1. Team First
If you listen to nearly every interview with Brady; what you hear is him putting the team first.
The media and the NFL pundits have given him the Greatest of All Time imprimatur (which appears to be accurate), but you never hear or see him make that claim about himself. You don't see him grandstanding or making superman gestures after big plays, but rather running up to the receiver or running back to give sincere appreciation for a great play.
2. Lead by Example
Talking about leadership platitudes happens all the time and often during seemingly inspiring communication from executives in an organization, but what really changes behavior is leading by example.
Even the strongest Brady detractors have to admit there's likely no one who prepares harder and better for a game, for a season, and ultimately for a career. Tom Brady’s work ethic and personal habits are a model for those who want to be leaders, and when he talks to others about what you can do to win, he has cred — because he lives it himself.
3. Coach Others
Brady is unselfish.
Living here in Tampa Bay we get news and stories from the community about the interest he takes in other people, not for the sake of public relations, but because that is who he is.
Tom Brady is a quarterback for the Buccaneers not a coach, but his willingness to help others on the team grow and excel is obvious. And, the players who get that coaching listen because they know his intent and because they know he can help. Only the media has made this all about Tom Brady.
4. Instill Belief
The Buccaneers were actually a very solid team when Brady joined them in March, but they didn’t know how to win. Brady made it his mission to help every player on offense and defense understand and believe they could be champions.
That alone does not get a team to the Super Bowl, but when you combine it with solid talent, it transforms a group of underperformers to world champions. He did this before and during the season and never let up even as they faltered at 7-5 in November.
They haven’t lost a game since.
5. Recognition is Earned
Tom Brady was yet again the Super Bowl MVP in Tampa, and you could argue there were a number of defensive stars who shined brightly on the Tampa side who could have gotten the award, and I agree.
Brady had 201 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 125.8. A very respectable number, but not stratospheric. But Brady got the Super Bowl MVP award because everyone on the field and in the NFL hierarchy knew that there would be no Super Bowl for the Buccaneers if it were not for everything Tom did before they got there.
If you set aside your emotions about Tom Brady, both positive and negative, there's so much we can learn about what makes a great leader. I can tell you those of us in Tampa Bay are certainly enjoying the fruits of Tom’s labor, but we can all do that by examining how this happened.